NU Arts Night brings Chicago artists to Northwestern


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Bea Cordelia performs a poem at NU Arts Night on Wednesday night. The event, which was hosted by the Center for Student Involvement and the Freshman Urban Program, brought Chicago artists to Northwestern’s campus.

Kimberly Go, Reporter

Chicago singers, dancers, comedians and spoken word artists performed for a crowd of over 100 students in Fisk Hall on Wednesday night as part of the first ever NU Arts Night.

“Chicago is definitely going through a cultural renaissance,” said emcee Kevin Coval, an organizer of “Louder Than a Bomb,” one of the country’s largest youth poetry festivals. “We’re dealing with a lot of violence, a lot of closed schools, a lot of gentrification, a lot of industrialization. And in the wake of that destruction is creation.”

Sponsored by Northwestern’s Center for Student Involvement and the Freshman Urban Program, NU Arts Night is the first event FUP has organized outside of its pre-Wildcat Welcome orientation program.

“Normally FUP Arts Night happens during the pre-orientation program week,” said Taylor Billings, a former co-chair of FUP. “We bring in artists from Chicago as well as Northwestern just to showcase their talent to the freshmen.”

Billings, a Weinberg senior, said they noticed there wasn’t anything like FUP Arts Night for the rest of NU and decided to bring it to non-FUP students this year.

“We really wanted to bridge the gap between Northwestern and Chicago culture as well as address some of the extreme social justice issues that exist in Chicago,” she said.

The first performers of the night were semi-finalists from this year’s “Louder Than a Bomb” competition. A group from Maine East High School performed a spoken-word piece titled “Shortcuts.”

The crowd snapped and cheered when the group spoke about how about how people today are obsessed with “quantity over quality, efficiency over excellence, speed over service.”

“Don’t want to talk to your kids about sex?” they during the piece. “Ban sex ed. Don’t want to examine your beliefs about sexuality? Ban gay marriage. Don’t want to admit you’re racist? Blame Obamacare.”

Poet and visual artist Krista Franklin performed after, reading one of her poems and talking about her artwork, most of which focuses on issues of race, gender and class.

“I learned the art of collage through watching my family make something out of nothing,” she said. “That’s really where my collage aesthetic comes from. It comes from an idea of necessity, you know, how you make something beautiful out of scraps.”

Billings said Chicago has a “wealth of diversity and a wealth of culture” that NU students aren’t always exposed to.

“There are issues we talk about in the classroom but they also exist in Chicago, in real life, and it’s important to get your hands on those, to really face the issues,” she said.

Other acts of the night included multi-genre singer, pianist and composer Akenya Seymour; comedian Calvin Evans; poet Malcolm London and dance ensemble The FootworKINGz.

Communication senior Bea Cordelia performed a spoken word poem about her transgender identity and German roots.

“That my people have always been murdered and are still today subjected to infected needles and gunshots is the subject of my poem,” she said during her performance.

Coval, who is also a co-founder of “Louder Than a Bomb,” helped organize the event. He said he wanted to bring a diverse group of artists from multiple genres to show students how broad Chicago’s art scene is.

“We had folks from the South Side, North Side and even suburbs,” he said. “I think it was a good representation of some of the spaces that exist in the city.”

Weinberg junior Stephanie Brock-Wilson said she found out about NU Arts Night from her friends in FUP and really enjoyed the performances.

“There’s such a cultural scene in Chicago that we often don’t partake in because we’re up in Evanston,” she told The Daily. “There was so much talent on the stage tonight and it was great to experience that.”

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